By Jack Holland and Patrick Markey
A man described as Northern Ireland’s biggest drugs baron was shot 15 times in the head and body and killed as he drank in a bar in Newry, South Down, on May 9. Two gunmen fled the scene on foot, according to an RUC spokesman. Though Brendan Fegan, 24, known as "Speedy," was shot in front of 60 people inside the bar, few have come forward as witnesses, according to reports.
An attempt was made on Fegan’s life a short time ago, when he was shot in the chest, and only saved by a bullet-proof vest. He had not long returned from recuperating in England when he was murdered.
No group claimed responsibility for the killing. Sinn Fein councilor Brendan Curran has denied that the republican movement had any involvement in it.
In 1995, the IRA carried out a series of murders of drug dealers and people described as being criminal elements, using the cover name Direct Action Against Drugs.
Reports have also linked Fegan to Martin Cahill, the Dublin underworld boss nicknamed "The General." He was shot dead by the IRA in August 1994.
A week before Fegan’s murder, four IRA members were arrested and charged with assaulting an alleged drug dealer at his home in Newry. They were armed with baseball bats and a fake gun. The same area has seen a recent flare up of violence from the Official Republican Movement, a breakaway from the Official IRA. ORM activists were thought to have been involved in attacks on local drug dealers. Councilor Curran has called upon the ORM to "disband."
Fegan was conspicuous for his wealth, spending £24,000 for a new car the week before he was shot. He lived in the middle-class village of Moira, near Banbridge, which is home to many police officers. It is thought that he did so for security reasons, feeling that the presence of security force personnel would give him some protection.
Newry has been the scene of other disputes involving the IRA and drug dealers. Allegations surfaced in the early 1990s that a high-ranking IRA man in the town was receiving protection money from a leading drug figure.
"It suited a lot of people to get rid of him," said a resident of the area of the shooting of Fegan. "His death did not engender much sympathy."
In other violence, Catholic homes in Antrim came under petrol bomb attack this week and the week before loyalist gunmen were foiled in an apparent attempt to massacre customers at a betting shop in North Belfast. The gun attack, in the Catholic Ardoyne area, was prevented when two young boys fled into the shop and warned the customers after the gunmen took aim at them. Fortunately, one of the gunmen’s weapons jammed. The shop had been attacked in November 1993, when the UDA murdered three people there.
North Belfast has been the scene of hundreds of sectarian murders over the years, and any large scale loyalist attack it is feared would provoke a republican backlash.